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Things to do in Melrose

Nestled in the heart of the Scottish Borders, the picturesque town of Melrose is full of history, culture and natural beauty. While it’s an enchanting Scottish town to visit in its own right, there’s plenty on offer to keep you and your family entertained, whatever your interests! I myself moved to the Scottish Borders nearly ten years ago with my husband, and we now run the award-winning Bowden House B&B, welcoming guests from all over the world. Originally from Austria, I fell in love with the beautiful Melrose and surrounding Scottish Borders so much so that I now consider it home. I look forward to sharing my insider tips on what to do in Melrose, and welcoming you to this beautiful part of Scotland.

Experience the History of Melrose

Melrose Abbey

One of the most iconic landmarks in Scotland, Melrose Abbey is one of the most famous abbeys in Scotland, and stands as a testament to Melrose's historical significance. Founded by David I in 1136 for the Cistercian Order, the abbey was largely destroyed by Richard II's English army in 1385. The surviving remains of the church, dating from the early 15th century, are renowned for their elegance and intricate carvings.

Visitors to Melrose Abbey should take note of the unique sculptures adorning the exterior, including hobgoblins, cooks with ladles, and even a bagpipe-playing pig! The abbey is also believed to be the burial site of Robert the Bruce's heart, marked by a commemorative carved stone plaque. Don't miss the Commendator's House, which displays artefacts unearthed during excavations. 

Trimontium Museum: Scotland's Roman Frontier

For a fascinating glimpse into Scotland's Roman past, a visit to the Trimontium Museum is a must. Dedicated to the Roman and Iron Age era, this museum showcases treasures excavated from the Trimontium site over the last century. Located in nearby Newstead, Trimontium was one of the largest Roman fort sites north of Hadrian's Wall and served as a frontier post at the edge of the Roman Empire.

The Trimontium Museum reopened in 2021 following a £1.4m renovation so is definitely worth a visit. Telling the story of this remarkable site and its people, it is one of our favourite museums in the Scottish Borders. Exhibits include some of the finest Roman artefacts found in Scotland, offering a captivating insight into life at the northernmost reaches of the Roman Empire.

The Rugby Stadium of the Melrose 7s

Sports enthusiasts will appreciate a visit to the Greenyards where the Melrose Sevens takes place every Spring. This is the birthplace of rugby sevens, when, in 1883, local butcher Ned Haig decided to create a faster-paced version of rugby to keep players and fans entertained during the off-season. The Melrose Sevens attracts teams from all over the world and is a highlight of the town's social calendar. Even outside the tournament, the stadium is a hub of activity with plenty of events and activities on offer.

Melrose Gardens

Melrose is home to several beautiful gardens, each offering a tranquil escape and a chance to connect with nature. Harmony Garden, located in the heart of Melrose, is a delightful walled garden known for its elegance and vibrant floral displays, and Priorwood Garden is the perfect spot for a leisurely afternoon stroll.

Harmony Garden

A charming Manor House garden, run by the National Trust for Scotland. Manicured lawns, scented borders and various fruit and vegetable beds make this the perfect Georgian garden. The Harmony Garden is the perfect spot to view Melrose Abbey and the majestic Eildon Hills, and also hosts the Borders Book Festival every June, 

Priorwood Garden

Another National Trust for Scotland gem is Priorwood Garden, which is a beautiful hidden walled garden through a door just along from Melrose Abbey. Visitors can enjoy the stunning variety of flowers and explore the charming heritage orchard.

Hello Outdoor Adventurers!

Melrose is perfectly placed for outdoor adventurers, welcoming cycling, fishing, golfing and hiking enthusiasts alike. At Bowden House B&B we provide secure storage for all your equipment, and even have a dedicated drying area with ample storage and drying space for soggy clothes and boots! 

Fishing in the Scottish Borders

Fishing enthusiasts will find plenty of opportunities in and around Melrose. The River Tweed, renowned for its salmon fishing, flows nearby and offers excellent angling prospects. Whether you're an experienced fisher or a beginner, the local fishing spots provide a peaceful and rewarding way to spend your time.

Cycling in Melrose

The area is a real cycling hotspot, and we offer plenty of storage and amenities if you're passing through or planning a cycling holiday in Scotland. One of our favourite routes is the well-signposted 4 Abbeys Cycle Route, a 55 mile circular route traversing the four magnificent abbeys of the borders. It's a chance to take in the beautiful scenery and history of the area.

Hiking Eildon Hills

For those after spectacular views, the neighbouring Eildon Hill offers a range of hiking routes over its three peaks (meaning it is often referred to as 'Eildon Hills'). The triple peaks of this hill dominate the landscape around Melrose. Formed over time from volcanic rock (or cleft in three by the Borders Wizard if you were to believe Sir Walter Scott’s famous poem ‘The Lay of the Last Minstrel’) these hills are steeped in legend and provide a perfect backdrop for a day's exploration. Whether you're a seasoned hiker or a casual walker, the Eildon Hills promise an unforgettable experience.

Melrose Walking Routes

Riverside Walk to Abbotsford House: Former Home of Sir Walter Scott

A visit to Melrose wouldn't be complete without exploring its scenic surroundings. Walk Melrose has collated various short and long-distance routes to help walkers explore the beautiful countryside in and around Melrose. One of the most delightful walks is the riverside path from Melrose to Abbotsford House, the grand former home of Sir Walter Scott. This stunning house, filled with historic artefacts and curiosities, offers a fascinating insight into the life and works of one of Scotland's most celebrated writers. Just a short drive away, Scott’s View provides breathtaking panoramic vistas of the Scottish Borders.

Our Top Tips for Where to Eat in Melrose and nearby

A day of exploring wouldn’t be complete without sampling some of the thriving local food scene Melrose has to offer. Traditional Scottish cuisine, locally sourced produce and innovative chefs means you're spoilt for choice when choosing where to eat in Melrose. Here are some of our must-try dishes and dining spots:

The Hoebridge, Gattonside

Take a short stroll over the chain bridge to Gattonside and you discover truly fine dining. The Hoebridge is a wonderful, Michelin-rated restaurant with a delightful contemporary approach to international cuisine. Using the freshest local ingredients the menu is mouthwatering. Excellent service adds to the welcoming feel of this restaurant and be sure to book early as it is very popular.

Abbey Fine Wines

Abbey Fine Wines is a trendy wine bar, cafe and bottle shop selling a selection of locally crafted gins, whiskies and wines, plus wines and spirits from further afield. We recommend stopping by for one of their fine charcuterie boards, toasted sourdough sandwiches (gluten-free options available) or even some local ice-cream.

Alex Dalgetty & Sons

A fifth-generation artisan bakery, Alex Dalgetty & Son draws visitors from all over the world to sample the Selkirk Bannock and Scotch Black Bun, still true to the original recipe created by Alex Dalgetty over 130 years ago. 

The Mainstreet Trading Company

Another trendy spot in nearby St. Boswells, the Mainstreet Trading Company is an independent bookshop and café that hosts talks and events from authors from around the  world, including Margaret Atwood, Sebastian Barry and Julia Donaldson. Besides books it is well known to serve brilliant coffee and home made cakes as well as delicious light lunches. Do not miss the delicatessen shop at the back of the bookshop - it is a treasure trove!


Top Picnic Spots in Melrose

Take advantage of Melrose's beautiful views and open spaces with a scenic picnic. Some of our top recommendations include:

Scott’s View

Take a trip up to where Sir Walter Scott used to sit, overlooking the River Tweed and three peaks of the Eildon Hills. A perfect picnic spot and pretty viewpoint.

Eildon Hills

Treat yourself to a picnic with a view after a ramble on the Eildon Hills, with panoramic views and many vantage points to take your perch you’ll be spoilt for choice in this legendary hills.

Where to Stay in Melrose

Of course the best place to stay is Bowden House B&B! Our boutique award-winning bed and breakfast is ideally situated for exploring the surrounding open countryside and rolling hills of the Scottish Borders. Enjoy a night or two here and make the most of the history and adventure on offer in this stunning region. Plan your visit to Melrose and discover why so many people fall in love with this part of Scotland.

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